“I think it’s a genetic thing,” says Sharon Friesen Schulz with a smile. “My mother, daughter and I are all singers and songwriters.”
As a child, Schulz and her mother sang together for family, and at age 63, Schulz’s mother and aunt made a CD of yodeling cowboy music.
“I was inspired at the time she did it and thought, ‘Wow, I’d like to do that someday,’” says Schulz.
That someday is official June 19 at K-Bay Caffé. Last winter Schulz recorded 11 songs she has written about Alaska, life and love. The CD, “Fireweed,” recorded with Milo Matthews at LoveLifeMusic Productions in Homer, marks the beginning of a new season for Schulz, as well as accomplishing a dream. After 29 years working for the Alaska public schools as a speech and language pathologist, 25 of those at Paul Banks Elementary School, Schulz is retiring.
“Some people say I’m too young too retire. I say I’m too young not to retire,” she says.
Schulz began her Alaska journey “broker than broke” after earning her master’s degree in speech and language pathology from Western Washington University. She was recruited by the Teacher Placement Program at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks to work for the Lower Kuskokwim School District, based in Bethel. For three years she flew to Native villages, working with Yup’ik speaking children.
“It was a challenging diagnostic position because I didn’t speak Yup’ik, but we used interpreters,” says Schulz.
Social gathering places were limited in Bethel, so Schulz volunteered at the public radio station, KYUK, joining friends for Sunday sing-along jam sessions.
Although she loved the people and her experiences in the Bethel area, Schulz wanted to work as a therapist, and moved to Homer and the Kenai Peninsula Public School District. The first thing she did was volunteer at KBBI, “because public radio is where I felt most at home,” she says.
At the Fresh Sourdough Express Bakery, she met Sunrise Kilcher Sjoeberg, Sally Wills and Sue Butler. They formed a group called “The S-Curves,” which performed for eight years until Schulz needed more time for family and work.
Schulz met her husband, Steve “Schulzie” Schulz, in 1987 in Homer. She was impressed with his talents and ambition as a craftsman and builder.
They currently live in a home that he built overlooking Kachemak Bay. The deck is host to purple chairs, potted flowers and a stand for her guitar.
“This is my peaceful place, where I enjoy my moments of paradise…on Paradise Place,” Schulz says.
After the births of their two children, Ayla and Luka, Schulz says she loved settling into being a mom. As her kids grew older, Wills and Sjoeberg encouraged Schulz to start performing again and to record her songs.
For Schulz, the music isn’t about becoming rich or famous.
“My intention is to learn, create, communicate, and connect with others through music. I hope to inspire people to grow in their own unique creativity, which we all have,” she says.
“Fireweed” shares the beauty of Alaska through a blend of folk and bluegrass music and lyrics. Her songs speak of summer days watching fireweed bloom, or finding your “Tundra Soul” or “Friend for All Seasons.” The lines to “Forever in My Heart,” share Schulz’s love for family and friends who have cheered her on throughout life. Her current favorite is “Summer Solstice Waltz.”
“It’s a happy song, about falling and staying in love,” she says. “Plus, ‘The S-Curves’ sing the harmonies.”
Schulz won’t officially retire until July — she’s still working part-time this summer with preschool through high school students, some of whom she has known since they entered Paul Banks at age 3. She says she is thankful for having a meaningful career, but is looking forward to more time for family, friends and new adventures.
“Retiring is a huge change, which is exciting and scary,” she says. “But everyone has been supportive. I also prayed about it, and God assured me it would be OK to move forward into this new phase. I’m ready for the unexpected now.”
The party starts at 5 p.m. with live performances joined by special guest bassist Mario Cardon, The S-Curves and other musicians on the CD, such as Lindianne Sarno, Tim Quinn and Richard Koskovich. There will be discounted soups from K-Bay, snacks and a cake. Autographed copies of Fireweed will be available for $15.